Angus Campbell of Skye and Middle River, Cape Breton

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Submitted by Terry Bingham - [email protected]

This is the tale of a family which arrived on the Polly in 1803 which did not remain of the Island, but whom are properly called "Polly" people!

On Angus Campbell's grave stone Middle River Cemetery, Baddeck, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia:

"God is Love... In memory of Angus Campbell... Born at Applecross Ross-Shire Scotland 1795...Died at Middle River April 9, 1901... Aged 106 years...Also his wife Catherine Beaton...Born at Coll. Scotland 1801...Died at Middle River...Oct 29, 1886...Aged 85 years...Resting in hope of a glorious resurrection."

A Copy Of Angus Campbell Obituary. Presbyterian Wittness, April 1901, Vol LIV No. 16, page 125:

"The Death Of A Centenarian.- The venerable patriarch of Cape Breton, if not the of the Maritime Provinces, has finished his career and gone to the "rest prepared for the people of God." We refer to Angus Campbell of Middle River, Cape Breton, who died on the 9th of this month at the ripe old age of 106 years one day. Born in the year 1795 at Applecross, Ross-Shire, Scotland, ( a locality celebrated for the age attained by its people), young Campbell emigrated to this country at the age of 8 years (1803) with his father Peter Campbell, and five brothers who predeceased him years ago-some of them in New Zealand induced thither by the Re. Norman McLeod, then of St. Ann's. For those troublous times when piracy was still rampant Great Britain found necessary to accompany some of her emigrant ships with armed cruisers, and it was Campbell's fortune to come across on the warship Polly"

This is from the book"Middle River Past and Present. History of a Cape Breton Community 1806-1985:

"This interview is a translation of a Gaelic article which appeared in the Gaelic Newspaper, "Mac Talla" which was published in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada from 1892 to 1904. It was edited by Mr. Jonathan G. MacKinnon. This is from the issue of March 25, 1898. This article was saved by Margaret Campbell, Alderwood Rest Home, and translated from Gaelic to English by the Reverend A.D. MacKinnon, of Little Narrows, Nova Scotia, on 25 March 1966.

A Bit of History From: The Oldest Living Person in Cape Breton - March 1898 Page 288 to 291:

"Two months ago I spent a pleasant evening with Angus Campbell, at Middle River, Cape Breton, County of Victoria. I am of the opinion that he is the oldest man in Cape Breton. At the time he enjoyed heath of body and mind. He could relate a story as well as when as when he was fifty years old. I shall give you a part of his story in his words.

"How old are you?"

I was 8 years of age when I left for America aboard the "Polly", a warship that brought us in the year 1803 to Saint John's Island, now known as Prince Edward Island.

"There were five hundred people aboard when we left Portree. The Polly was not a large ship, nor was the Captain, but both were clever. Captain Derby was courageous and a real gentleman. After five weeks we landed at Belfast, Prince Edward Island, there was not a white man nor a house to be found as far as the southern end of the Island."

"You must have suffered great hardship."

"Yes, there is no reason to recall if, for it would be difficult for people, in comfort of to-day to understand it or believe it, the men made camps from bed-clothing. Fever broke out aboard ship and a number of women and children died after landing."

"Did you build a place there?"

"No, not in that part of the Island. My father was a carpenter, and he built a boat, and took his own and other families to Farrnet, and there they built a place. Red Roderick MacKenzie bought two cows and my father brought one. We had been told before we left overseas about the cold and snow in America, and we were worried about how to get the cows and ourselves through the winter. My mother took charge of the cows and with a sickle she reaped enough food for the three cows for the winter. My mother drowned in Farrnet Bay. She was crossing in a boat alone, taking a tub of butter to a shoemaker in payment for his work. And that was a sad day for us. We were in the Island for nine years. I was twenty when the Battle of Waterloo was fought. We came to Middle River in 1812, in the boat that took us to Farr. I was seventeen years old."

" There must be a great difference between the appearance of Cape Breton then and now."

" The appearance of the place today is plain to all; I shall relate something of its appearance when I came. The axe had not yet done its work, and we were not expert at using it and the place was under woods as far as the water. There were five homes in Beddeck, and I do not know of any from there to River inhabitants, in the county of Victoria."

"Did your neighbors accompany you?"

"No my neighbors, the MacRaes, took up land at Broad Cove, County of Inverness. They went to Sydney to get a title to the land, and going through Middle River, they liked the intervals so well that they left Broad Cove and came to Middle River." The Intervals were better than they are now; they have been spoiled by the river.

" Was the place long without a minister?"

"Yes, for some time. The first one who came was a bit fond of the drink, but at the same time the drink was common, and to drink was fashionable. To be without the drink was to be without fashion. I heard that the drink did bad work on this man at the last. Before the Reverend Farquharson came to us, the Reverend MacLennan from Prince Edward Island made the rounds as a missionary." [Note: Many Middle River baptisms show up in the Records of St. John's Church, Belfast, P.E.I. as a result of Rev. MacLennan's visits to Cape Breton.]

"It must have been difficult to move about at that time?"

"Yes, for some time there were no roads or bridges; such things as we needed were far from us and difficult to bring home except the wood, which was at our doors. All we had for bridges were trees, and when the river was high the water went over the trees. There were five drowned for want of bridges. Today we have iron bridges, and every now and again a man comes from the mainland with a brush and a can of paint, to paint them. We took most of our supplies from Sydney to Arichat by boat, and at the end of the year when there was a heavy snow storm, People suffered much coming from these places in open boats."

"I should like to learn a little about yourself. I forgot to ask where you were born?"

" I was born at Applecross in Rosshire in 1795, I am in my Hundred and forth year. My grandfather on my mother's side was from Gairloch, and my grandfather on my father's side was from Argyle. I shall give you a story about my grandfather in Gairloch that you may give to "Mac-Talla" sometime when you are not busy. Between children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, I stand at the head of a hundred descendents. I should like to ask the Reverend Malcolm Campbell, who is well acquainted with our family, if he knows anyone else living who came over on the "Polly". The description of the Polly that I read in "Mac-Talla" brought back many memories. I thought I was seeing the Polly with her guns and armour. Call when you come this way again I like to talk about the olden days. Give my regards to "Mac-Talla" which is bringing honor to the Gaelic, so that it is read all over the world

" We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the rowans fine:

But we've wonder'd many a weary foot
Sin' auld lang syne.

We twa hae paddled in the burn,
From morning sun til dine
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne."

This kind old man is full of stories. If you go to Middle River, call on him. He will be very glad to see you and you will enjoy his conversations. There is another old man in the southern part of the Island, County of Richmond, on whom I am going to call soon, and when I do that I shall give you some of the conversations I have with him.

I am your friend,
The Sojourner."

This is a copy of an Obituary givien to me by Peggy MacLeod of Middle River. April 16, 1901.

"Over the Century
Death of Angus Campbell at Middle
River, C.B., at he age of 106.
Ship in Which He Came from Scotland
in 1803 Attacked by a French Man-of-War.

MIDDLE RIVER, C.B., April 16, 1901
--Death has at last claimed the oldest citizen in Middle River, and possibly the oldest in Nova Scotia in the person of Angus Campbell, west side, who died on the 9th inst, at the advanced age of 106 years. He leaves a host of descendants many of whom have emigrated to other countries. Mr. Campbell was born in Scotland in the year 1795. In 1803 he came with his father and some friends to Prince Edward Island. Coming across the Atlantic they had an encounter with a French man of war and narrowly escaped being taken prisoners which the cleverness of the captain alone prevented. It will be remembered that the Frenchmen at this time were hostile to Great Britain. The Captain ordered all the passengers to prostrate themselves and make a bluff of small pox and the French captain, not daring to investigate, sailed away. Mr. Campbell with his friends stayed in P.E.Island until 1812, when hearing of the reputation of Cape Breton as a farming country a few of their young men including the late Mr. Campbell set out in an open boat to explore it. They sailed through the Bras D'or waters to the mouth of this River then known as the Wagamacook, and took possession of the land which their successors still hold.

Like the "spies" of old the reported favorably to their friends and in the following year the whole company removed to this place and were among the first white settlers who tilled the soil of Middle River."

Children of Peter Campbell (Angus's father): John Campbell b. abt 1893, Angus b. 1795, Roderick b. abt 1799, Margaret died on the ship coming to St. John's (now Prince Edward Island). These are all I have that I know of that came on the ship. Born to Peter on P.E.I were Kenneth 1806 and Hector 1808. They came from at Applecross Ross-Shire Scotland.

Dave Hunter and The Island Register: HTML and Graphics© 2003

Last Updated: 09/08/2003 8:16:45 AM
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